Skip to main content

Full text of "Address on music : delivered before the Singing Society of the Second Baptist Church in Boston, on the evening of the 7th April, 1814"

See other formats



■'• v ' - 


























BOSTON, APRIL 11, 1814. 

The Singing Society of the Second Baptist Church have 
appointed us a committee to wait on you, to present to you the thanks 
of the Society for your highly approved Address, delivered before them 
on the evening of their Exhibition of Sacred Music, and to request a 
copy for the press. 

We are, dear Sir, with much esteem, 
Yours, &c. 


Rev. Mr. Winckdl. 


THE occasion upon which we are assembled is 
truly interesting. It is to cherish in our bosoms a 
desire for improvement in the pleasing and important 
art of music. 

The performances which have already been exhibited 
have afforded us pleasure, and engaged our attention. 
Our minds are now naturally left to seek relief by 
pursuing a different train of thought. 

Under such circumstances, it is with peculiar em- 
barrassment the speaker rises to address you. Con- 
scious of his inability to meet your expectations, he is 
compelled to seek a shelter under the indulgence of 
his hearers. 

To most of you, I am persuaded no apology is neces- 
sary. You well know that it is no ordinary provi- 
dence that has called me to the discharge of this duty. 
I am but the feeble representative of the man, who 
would have dignified this occasion with his ability, no 
less than his eloquence. 

Alas ! how uncertain are all human prospects ! The 
time was fixed — the speaker engaged — the intelligence 
given ; but in a moment, the scene is changed ! The 
hand of death snatches from time the man, whose 
ready mind and glowing heart shone with a lustre 
through the language of his lips. The friend of science 
— the patron of music — the champion of eloquence — 

Waterman is no more ■!* Sudden death has hurried 
him to the grave. There, cold and lifeless, is the heart 
that just now was the seat of friendship. His counte- 
nance no more beams with intelligence ; no more do 
his lips move with persuasive accents the tear of affec- 
tion ; no more do they kindle the emotions of trans- 
port. He sleeps in death ! You strive in vain to wake 
him with the melody of sounds. His dirge is all that 
you can now attempt ; his dirge alone may benefit the 
living. Pay this last tribute of respect to the memory 
of your deceased friend — Strike the mournful sound 
of wo ! ! [The choir, (as these words were pro- 
nounced) without rising, sung the following appropri- 
ate dirge, set by Handel : " Few are our days," &c] 

But we cannot tarry to make reflections upon the 
dead. With slow and solemn step, let us advance to 
the concern before us. We must endeavour to direct 
our thoughts in a different train. For although the 
art of music, to which we are now to attend, may be 
made to express the solemn, it may also express the 
cheerful emotions. I therefore proceed to the subject 
for which we are assembled. 

That I should enter into a lengthy discussion of the 
nature and powers of music, cannot be expected at 
this time. A cursory view only of the subject, to 
show that it is not altogether unworthy our notice, is 
all that will be attempted. 

Every science demands our attention, in proportion 
to its utility and importance. Music, both as a sci- 

* The Rev. Mr. Waterman died on the 23d of March. The time for 
the exhibition had been ?ppointed, and public notice given that he was to deliver 
an Address. After this late period, the author was solicited to officiate in his 
stead; and, in the midst of numerous avocations, he prepared what is now pie* 
semed to the view of a candid public. 

cnce and an art, holds no inferior station in the sources 
of human happiness. Knowledge of every description, 
whether civil, religious, or political, is sought with 
eagerness. Reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, 
geography, and eloquence ; these are thought almost 
indispensably necessary to a tolerable reception in soci- 
ety ; and why should not Music hold a rank equally 
important with the rest ? 

Music is not, as too many suppose, the offspring 
of a heated imagination : it does not grow out of the 
wild fancies of extravagance and folly : it is not the 
product of chance, nor the result of artificial signs and 
rules of man's invention. It claims a nobler origin ; 
an origin as antiquated as the principles of sensation, 
reflection, and memory. 

The vulgar idea of music is, that the octave, the 
semitones, the flats and sharps, were at the first estab- 
lished by authority, or mutual agreement, and have 
from thence universally obtained. Nothing can be 
more erroneous. For although the in^cnuitv of man 
may have reduced the science of music to certain first 
principles, yet these first principles are as really found 
to exist in nM. re, as Sir Isaac New-ton's three great 
laws of motion. Are the laws of motion the founda- 
tion of the complicated science of philosophy ? so are 
the simple principles of music the foundation of the 
various combinations of sound, of concord and of 

Was it ever supposed that the result of any two 
numbers in arithmetic, or the relation of a verb to a 
substantive in grammar, was established by authority ? 
Is not the result of the former and the relation of the 
latter found to exist independent of all authority ? In 

: manner all the artificial signs of music are de- 

signed to express the principle previously ascertained 
to exist. If a knowledge of the English language is 
facilitated by the rules of Grammar, why may not as- 
sistance be afforded by Art in obtaining a knowledge 
of music ? The Gamut is to music, what Grammar 
is to language. Both are capable of improvement, in 
proportion as light is thrown upon the several sciences. 
A history of the progress of music would afford us 
many striking illustrations of this statement. The ge- 
nius of Handel and Giardini forms as distinguished a 
period in the province of music, as that of Walker, 
Sheridan and Johnson in the province of letters. 

Can any person tell why the semitones and octaves 
should occur exactly at the same distance from each 
other, in all cases ? Or can any reason be assigned why 
a certain distance of sound should produce a discord, 
while another certain distance of sound produces a 
concord, unless it be that the principle exists in na- 
ture ?* 

The elements of music are therefore inherent in 
the constitution of the universe, and are inseparable 
from its existence. For if it is only byjhe^ agitation of 
the surrounding atmosphere, that thesis affected by 
the power of sounds, must not the quality of these 
sounds be regulated by the different arrangement of 
the various particles of the air ? and consequently must 
not the air itself possess those established laws, upon 
which are founded all the varieties of semitones and 
octaves, of concords and discords ?t 

* This is to be understood of the different sounds as they occur, without the 
variations that may be given by flats and sharps. 

+ The author knows not whether these thoughts have ever before been brought 
into connexion with the power of sounds ; but he is unable otherwise to account 
for the different effects produced by the different modifications of the air. If the 

To ask, therefore, why there should exist such a 
principle as the power of sounds, is to ask, why there 
should be an order in the works of creation ? why all 
bodies should possess the power of attraction, of gravi- 
tation and cohesion ? The voice of nature is the voice 
of melody and praise ; and the laws of nature is but 
another name for harmony itself. No human ingenu- 
ity can equal the exact symmetry discovered in the 
formation of the human body. The air we breathe, as 
well as the earth we tread, is made up of various prop- 
erties, combined to answer the purposes of life : and 
who knows but that the harmony of nature may be to 
the Almighty what the harmony of §ounds is to us ? 
Who can tell but that, to spiritual intelligences, the si- 
lent accents of order may be as powerful as audible 
sounds to corporeal ? 

" The morning stars that sang together" in the begin- 
ning, were waked by the harmonious arrangement of 
all the works of God. And certain it is, that the or- 
derly movement of the planetary system, the earth, 
sun, moon, and stars, each possessing different proper- 
ties of magnitude, gravitation, and attraction, each 
turning on their several axes, each revolving round 
their several centres, and the whole re-revolving round 
one common centre, — swell the mind with notes of 
praise, equalled only by those when " all the sons of 
God shouted for joy." 

sound of a Viol has a different effect upon the organ of hearing from that of a Pi- 
ar.o, why should not the particles of air possess a certain adaptation to each other, 
to produce an agreeable effect in unison? If it shou'd be said, that the agreeable 
and d : sagrerable of sounds exiu in the mind, still it mny be asked — Why, (seeing 
it is through the medium of the air that it is communicated) should the union 
of two sounds be agreeable, and the union of two other sounds be disagreeable ? 
A develcpcmtnt of this subject would be a desideratum in the science of music . 
It is certainly a subject, which presents a field for much curious specula! 

It is natural here to observe the wisdom of our Cre- 
ator, in adapting our faculties to the various objects 
with which we are surrounded. 

There are but three mediums through which we 
derive all our happiness ; the sensual, the organic, and 
the intellectual. The sensual is that which we receive 
through the faculties of touching, tasting and smell* 
ing ; the organic, that of the eye and ear ; the in- 
tellectual, that of the reflections of our own minds.— - 
The organic pleasures are superior to the sensual, and 
the intellectual superior to the organic. 

With the sensitive part of our nature, music, as far 
as we are acquainted, has no concern ; and it holds 
connexion with the intellectual only through the me- 
dium of the eye and ear. The organic pleasures, 
therefore, holding a middle rank between the sensual 
and intellectual, elevate us as much above the former 
as they leave us below the latter.* 

With the eye, we discover the silent language of 
order, which is exhibited in the works of creation, and 
is always productive of pleasure to the mind. This 
principle we call in to the aid of beauty, painting, ar- 
chitecture, and gardening. In this manner also we can 
cast an eye over a stave, on which musick is written, 
and derive a pleasure from the same, without uttering 
a single sound. 

The ear, however, is the principal organ concerned 
with the power of musick. With this we communi- 
cate a pleasure to the mind, by attending to the beau- 
ties of melody and harmony when waked into audible 
sounds. The first step above the silent language of 
order addresses itself to the ear \ and although plea? - 

* See Kaiwc's Introduction f o the. Element" of Criticism. 


urable emotions may be raised in distinction from the 
faculty of seeing, yet that effect is the most powerful 
which is produced by the union of these two faculties. 
A proper modulation of the human voice, therefore, 
accompanied by appropriate looks and gestures, may be 
considered the highest source of organic pleasures. 

The heart of man is formed to be animated and 
warmed by man. Here nature speaks with a language 
intelligible to all. That sympathy of sound, which 
brings in unison the emotions of the soul, more irre- 
sistible than hostile fleets and armies, seizes the man 
of vengeance, disarms him of his fury, and clothes him 
with mildness — or infuses into timidity and weakness 
the courage of a warrior, and urges him forward to 
brave the dangers of the field of battle. 

Instrumental music of the simplest kind must be 
founded upon the principles of vocal.* The lyre and 
the organ were in the earliest ages brought to the as- 
sistance of the human voice. In the ancient republics 
of Greece, the lyres of Orpheus and Amphion possessed 
a power inferior only to the eloquence of Demosthe- 
nes ; or, to use the figurative language of their poets, 
at the sound of their harps, the wild beasts laid aside 
their ferocity, the rivulets stopped in their courses, and 
the trees of the forest received the power of feeling 
and motion. 

Nor is it among the heathen nations alone that we 
are to look for an attention to music. Have you for- 
gotten that Jubal was the father of all such as handled 

• "Instrumental music is never introduced, till vocal has gained a considerable 
degree of perfection. Instruments are designed to imitate the voice : the extent, 
tones, and modulation of the voice must therefore be known, before they can be 
imitated. The most rude and uncultivated savages are not without their songs, 
though dcstitu.c of musical instruments." Sec Hubbard's Essay on Music, page 4, 



the harp and the organ in the antediluvian world?* 
Need I rehearse the songs of Moses and the children of 
Israel on the banks of deliverance ; or wake the ancient 
harp of David on the hill of Zion ? There is not a na- 
tion on earth but has felt its power and yielded to its 

Hitherto we have spoken of music as it exists in na- 
ture, independently of the improvements of art. It is 
suitable that we should now speak of some of its dif- 
ferent properties, and the advantages that may be 
derived from it. 

A simple series of sounds, expressive of the genuine 
feelings of the heart, is called melody. Such is the 
music of untutored nature, where the emotions of 
joy or grief are expressed without restraint. Such also 
is the plaintive melody of the feathered songsters of 
the grove. Its effects are alike produced by the per- 
fect chorister, whose voice can wake the dormant fac- 
ulties of the soul ; and by the tender mother, who 
lulls to sleep the infant of her bosom. 

The union of two sounds, placed at such a distance 
as to make an agreeable impression, is properly called 
a concord. A number of these concordant sounds is 
appropriately termed harmony. Upon these princi- 
ples are founded all the varieties of music. 

A mixed emotion, and perhaps a devotional frame 
of mind, may be raised by the assistance of harmony ; 
but to impress an important sentiment, or to awaken a 
soft and delicate passion, the simple melody is the 
most effectual. Hence the frequent use of solos by 
the most admired authors of music. The mind, en- 
raptured wjth the sublime chorusses of a full band, is 

* Gen. iv, 21. 


soon dazzled with its elevation, and seeks for relief by 
lighting on the simple strains of melody. 

Great effects may be produced by passing alternately 
from harmony to melody in the same piece. Like the 
tranquillity of mind produced by the calm which suc- 
ceeds a tempest, the heart is softened and impressed 
with a well adapted solo, after the elevation of a vari- 
ety of parts. An advantage may also be taken of dis- 
cords, to render the effect of concords more pleasing.* 

Music receives an additional power from its con- 
nexion with words. The force of language, combined 
with appropriate sounds, has an effect superior to ei- 
ther when taken separately. The sentiments of the 
heart are naturally expressed in language suited to 
their general character. Hence the orator, who with 
the effusions of his heart unites the greatest harmony 
of periods, will make the deepest impression upon his 
hearers ; and metrical compositions produce an effect 
superior to those in prose, only by virtue of their con- 
nexion with the power of music. The mind, trans- 
ported with the glories of creation, or with the perfec- 
tions of the Redeemer, pours forth its emotions in the 
impassioned strains of poetic melody. The most 
unexampled performances in the province of letters 

* "As in painting, the brilliancy of colouring is happily set off by an appropri- 
ate :hade, so an occasional discord gives to harmony a mote exquisit; swoemess. 
And on a principle somewhat similar, the expression of a single part is greatly aug- 
mented if placed in contrast with the harmony of a full chorus The transition 
relieves the mind, and gives a new spring to the attention. Moreover, in pieces of 
the dramatic kind, a composer not unfnqucntly finds it necessary to give a general 
conctntus, to represent a multitude a» uniting their voices 'o give utterance to <\ 
common emotion. ' : t 

+ See Brown's Essay on Mws'c, p. 10. 


were chiefly delivered in poetic numbers. I refer to 
the Psalms of David, that sweet singer of Israel.* 

It is easy to discover, that in this connexion music 
will characterize the prevailing disposition as well as 
the morals of any nation. Is a people naturally gay 
and sprightly ? You will see it in their music. Are 
they cold and phlegmatic ? You will see it in their 
music. This is evident also from the individuals to 
whom we may recur within the circle of our acquaint- 
ance. We seldom find an accurate musician, without 
finding a correspondent mildness of temper and dispo- 
sition. Such was doubtless the meaning of those ex- 
pressions, made use of to show the effect produced up- 
on the temper and manners of the Grecians by the 
music of Orpheus. And it is certain that the polite- 
ness, humanity and hospitality of the Arcadians, so 
much celebrated in ancient history, was principally the 
fruit of their attention to the art of music j while 
their Cynethian neighbours, neglecting this and the 
fine arts, with which it is connected, became " so fierce 
and savage, that no city in Greece was so remarkable 
. for frequent and great enormities."! 

Is it not of importance, therefore, that the youth 
especially, who are forming their tempers as well as 
their morals, should pay suitable attention to this de- 
lightful branch of education ? And is it not as much 
an abuse of the mercies of God, to treat with contempt 

* "The song of Moses was written in poetry, undoubtedly for the purpose of 
being sung by the choirs of Israelites." Hubbard's Essay, page $. 

+ See Polybius, lib. iv. chap. 3. and Kaime's Elements of Criticism, chap, ii, 
part i. sect. 2. 


this important source of happiness, as any other of his 
benevolent institutions?* 

I come now to speak of the advantages of music 
when applied to the sacred duties of devotion. By the 
universal consent of all nations, it has been considered 
an essential part of divine service. I do not wish to 
apologize for the abuse of this principle by the Pagan 
world in honouring their impure deities. Its noblest 
effects are found among the worshippers of the true 
God. The Saviour of men did not hesitate to 
join with his disciples in singing a divine hymn on the 
most solemn and interesting occasion. And in after 
days, those same disciples continued to sing psalms and 
hymns and spiritual songs in the churches of Jesus 
Christ. Hence the worshippers of the Son of God 
in all ages have united their hearts with their voices. in 
making melody unto the Lord. 

The Zion of God is the perfection of beauty : it is 
the mountain of holiness, the temple of virtue, in- 
habited by the sons and daughters of the Most High. 
Can any place be more suitable for harmony and praise? 
Can any choir be more honourable ? any subject more 
exalted ? any emotions more pure ? Here every cir- 
cumstance, that can add to the perfection of music, 
exists in its full strength. Is grandeur and sublimity 

* Although the principles of music are furnished by nature, yet to be able to 
convert them to practical uses, is the work of art. Culture is no less necessary 10 
a good musician than to a correct mathematician : an inattention to either, in the 
season for improvement, may render all after efforts ineffectual ; more especially 
so in music, where all the beauty of the performance depends upon the ability to 
modulate the voice. This ability is best obtained in youth, while the vo ce is yet 
forming. Very few persons, who have arrived at the meridian of life, have been 
able to make themselves even tolerable performers in vocal music; while very 
many have reflected with much regret upon their mis'mprovement of that season, 
when their voices might have been cultivated. This fact should excite a dcsiie 
in the breasts of all, who still have it in their power, to improve their voices while 
they arc young. 


necessary ? What grandeur can equal the perfections 
and works of the Deity, unfolded to the view of the 
believer ? Is strength of affection and friendship nec- 
essary ? What affection, what friendship can equal that 
of the compassionate Redeemer ? Are emotions of joy 
and transport necessary ? What emotions can equal the 
animation of believers " raised up," and made " to sit 
together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ?" Hence we 
find that most of those, who have excelled in the su- 
blime and beautiful in music, have chosen to draw 
their subjects from the treasures of divine revelation. 
It is a question much agitated by critics, whether 
harmony, the performance of different parts in unison, 
has a tendency to increase or diminish the effects of 
music. It is said, that to multiply the parts is to di- 
vide the attention, so as to prevent the impression of 
any one important sentiment. And if we were to ex- 
amine the pieces of some of our American authors as a 
standard, we should find that this statement is tootrue. # 
They have not only directed a number of parts and 
sounds , but^lso of words , to be performed at the same 
time. In one instance at least, the four parts of quite 
a celebrated tune, are pronouncing at the same time 
the principal part of four different lines in the same 
verse. This is certainly a play of words and a corrup- 
tion of music, to the disgrace of its solid beauties.f 

* I say some, for there are so many excellent pieces of American composition, 
that it would be unjust to censure without discrimination. Good music needs no 
jpology ; it speaks for itself; and the more it is examined, the more will its beau- 
ties be discovered. When the taste for*uch pieces shall become established in 
this country, they will not fail to procure " the meed of praise" for their authors. 

f See Hubbard's Essay on Music. These observations are intended to apply 
principally to the music adapted to the solemnities of public worship. The beau- 
ty of music consists in its being suited to the occasion. If we are displeased with 
a levity in the pulpit, when engaged in the worship of God, why should we allow 
It in that which conftitutes an essential part of worship? Music admits of as great 

Bat still I think that in the worship of the sanctuary 
we may have a harmony of parts, which shall greatly 
add to the solemnities of devotion. To produce any 
lasting impression upon the mind with simple melody, 
requires a greater skill of performance than the gene- 
rality of singers possess. But by the variety of voices 
in different parts, the same effect may be produced, al- 
though the performance be not so accurate ; and the 
God of nature, who calls for the homage of all our 
hearts, seems to have bestowed this variety of voices, 
that all may bear a part in the worship of their Creator. 
What an elevation of soul is produced by the per- 
formance of sacred music adapted to the solemnity of 
the occasion ! What greater resemblance can exist be- 
tween the inhabitants of heaven and earth, than when 
with united voices they ascribe praise and glory to 
" Him who sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb !" 

I cannot relinquish your attention, without remark- 
ing the mixture of satisfaction and regret with which I 
listen to the performances of this evening. Of satis- 
faction, that the style of music introduced is so much 
superior to that which has prevailed in New-England 
for years past ; of regret, that the same style should not 
be more universally introduced. I will not now des- 

a variety as public speaking, and in the duties of the sanctuary thpy should go hand 
in hand. It begins to be seen and acknowledged, that most of the tunes, which 
have been sung in the churches of New-England, are too trifling for devotional 
purposes. The solid beauties of music are beginning to be introducer!, and that 
corruption of taste, for which we have been so justly censured, is gradually de- 

With respect to fuges, they arc admissible in anthems and chorusscs mere than 
in simple* pieces designed for the sanctuary. If they are frequent in European 
music, it is principally in that of the first description, and very few or none of the 
tunes in common use are made up of fuges, like that referred to in the example 
above mentioned, and many others that might be produced. Those, who may 
wish to sc- that example and a specimen of correct fuging, may fimi them in Hub- 
bard's criticism on the tune called Montague, in his Essay on Music, deliver <l 
before the Middlc«ex Musical Society, Sept. 1807. Sold by Manning & Lonng. 


cant upon that unmeaning jargon of sounds, which has 
taken the place of solid music in the worship of the 
sanctuary. I sincerely hope, that the noble efforts of 
this society and others in this town to introduce the 
beauties of psalmody, will be crowned with success, and 
imitated by the surrounding towns and states. 

The style of sacred music should be adapted to the 
sentiments it is designed to express. The heart enrap- 
tured with true devotion will naturally, with Handel 
in his Chorus of the Messiah, " Break forth into joy and 
gladness.* 9 And what sentiments did the style of Gi- 
ardini express in the words, "And on the wings of every 
hour we read thy patience stilly" but those of holy grati- 
tude and love ? What in the words, " Father, how wide 
thy glories shine" and then in these, " But when we view 
thy great designs" &c. ; what, I say, did the style of his 
music convey, but the most exalted ideas of the gran- 
deur and the glory of God ? 

If, melted into tenderness by the love of Jesus, and 
taught by his Spirit, we are enabled here to express the 
gratitude of our hearts, we shall hereafter be admitted 
to the full choir of celestial spirits, where all our emo- 
tions will be love, and all our work praise. Soon we 
shall cease to sing with mortal that we may use immor- 
tal tongues. Let us then with our voices endeavour 
also to cultivate our hearts. Let us strive to imitate 
the heavenly company in purity of feeling as well as 
harmony of sounds ; that in the closing scene of time 
we may be found among " the ransomed of the Lord, who 
shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting 
joy upon their heads ; who shall obtain joy and gladness, and 
sorrow and sighing shall flee away"